Sunday, April 22, 2007

Third Sunday in Eastertide

O God, whose blessed son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread: open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work; who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, One God, now and for ever,
—Collect for Easter III:

After reading the Gospel describing the disciples' beach breakfast with the risen Christ, our celebrant began his homily with: "All resurrection experiences are to those who need them. Be in touch with your need." He spoke quietly with some special authority. Perhaps it's an Anglican thing, (he was a guest in our house from the Church of England, and kindly agreed to fill in on a Sunday I hadn't been able to schedule a local priest.) He had me hooked.

I remembered the collect for today... how that turn of phrase connecting the sight of bread with the sight of Christ's redeeming work had poked my heart the way words sometimes do; I thought of all the people Jesus had not appeared to... Pontius Pilate, Caiaphas... how his appearances were always shrouded in mystery and misunderstanding until the eyes of faith were opened to the possibility that this stranger in their midst was indeed the risen Lord.

In today's Gospel, the disciples were all eating breakfast with Jesus, yet they were afraid to ask him who he was. Were they afraid he would somehow morph into somebody else if they dared to pose the question?

Holy encounters are sometimes best left unspoken, I think. For those of us enamored with words (as I am) it's difficult to shut up about mystical experiences. Yet the telling is never quite as wonderful as the event itself. Seeing Christ's redeeming work in the midst of holocaust, natural disaster or any tragedy is hard enough... trying to convey that vision to someone focused on the evil of it, is a fool's errand. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread... the opening lines of a Mercer song often quoted. Who really knows if angels fear anything? If perfect Love casts out fear, then where does that fear go when it is cast out? I have too many questions today and very few (if any) answers.

I believe we must be fools. That is some kind of an answer I guess. And I believe we can connect the bread, whether it be Communion bread or Wonder bread or low-fat, seven-grain bread... with the recognition of Christ in each face we encounter. Why else would Jesus keep telling Peter "feed my sheep"? Why else would he ask us to "Eat it in remembrance of me"?

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